O’Connor will still feature

James O'Connor will still feature in Australia's Rugby Championship campaign despite his injury concerns. [more]

O’Connor will still feature

James O’Connor will still feature in Australia’s Rugby Championship campaign despite his injury concerns.

O’Connor will miss Australia’s first two games of the inaugural tournament as he is still recovering from a serious hamstring problem.

The 22-year-old wasn’t named in the Wallabies’ 30-man squad for the initial stages of the competition, with head coach Robbie Deans admitting that he has no chance of being available for the back-to-back clashes with the All Blacks on August 18 and 25.

But Deans does expect his star utility back, who can play centre, fly-half, wing or full back, to play an important role against South Africa and Argentina as Australia look to build on the Tri Nations crown they won last season.

"James is rehabbing very well, he's under the care of a hamstring specialist who's got more of an AFL (Australian Rules Football) background based in Melbourne," said Deans.

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"He's working very hard, he's making good progress but we will not promote him before he's (ready), particularly with the potential for recurrent injuries.

"And a bloke like James, the way he plays the game and his physical capabilities, a recurrent hamstring injury would not be a good scene for him at this stage, so we've got to make sure we take care of his long-term future.

"But he's going well. If you spoke to him he'd say he's good to go by the end of the month, but he won't be considered for the first two Tests."

O’Connor could feature in the home tie with the Springboks on September 8 or, failing that, the Gold Coast clash with Argentina a week later.

Wallaby team-mate Quade Cooper will hope to be involved from the start of the tournament after being selected in the initial squad but it is by no means clear if he will make the first match against the Kiwis.

Cooper is battling Berrick Barnes for the fly-half slot in Sydney but, with very little rugby behind him following a long injury lay off, Deans admits he won’t rush his maverick playmaker back into action.

"We've got an idea in mind but as is always the case we'll communicate that with the playing group first," Deans said in relation to who will start off in the No10 jersey.

"That (proving himself) will obviously be high on Quade's mind… but we won't push him beyond his state of readiness.

"We've had a good couple of bursts with him and there was significant growth in him in the second camp… he's working hard."

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